WNBA franchises look to build and strengthen chemistry during camp in their hunt for championships

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FILE - Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson (22) looks to pass during the first half in Game 3 of a WNBA basketball final playoff series against the New York Liberty Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in New York. Wilson, Breanna Stewart and Brittney Griner will be back on the courts chasing another WNBA title when camps open on Sunday, April 28. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

NEW YORK – The New York Liberty know how tough it is to put together a talented roster, have players jell in their first year together and win a title.

They fell just short last year, losing to the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals.

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As training camp opened Sunday, New York's starting five from last season was healthy and practicing. That wasn't the case a year ago.

“We know what happened last year and the fact we didn't achieve our goal will motivate us, but it's not what we're thinking about the entire season," Breanna Stewart said. "I'm really excited to get things going with a new and old group and build the chemistry. Now most of us have a year under our belt, what are we going to do bigger on and off the court?”

Sabrina Ionescu already sees a change in the team after the first day of practice.

“I know at this time last year I was meeting Courtney (Vandersloot) as a teammate for the first time," she said. "Having one year under our belt, training camp feels different. We've been able to grow so much as a group and having a returning starting five helps so much that we're building from last year.”

Chemistry is key when it comes to winning a title.

The Aces have won two straight titles with their core of A'ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray.

The team enjoys spending time together on and off the court and have a real camaraderie.

“I know a lot of people may get annoyed by us or maybe say we’re fake or we’re doing this for cameras,” Wilson said last year during the finals. “But, no, that’s really us. The biggest thing is our joy, how we play and how much fun we have.”

Las Vegas did lose a piece of their championship group when Candace Parker announced her retirement on Sunday before practice began.

Seattle has welcomed a couple of major additions to the Storm during camp.

Parker's former longtime Los Angeles Sparks teammate Nneka Ogwumike is getting a fresh start in Seattle this year after signing as a free agent. Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith, who also signed as a free agent, will pair with Jewell Loyd in hopes of bringing the Storm their own talented trio to lead the team back to the playoffs and potentially be championship contenders.

“We don’t have the luxury like some other teams who has a core or had a core that stayed together,” Diggins-Smith said.

She was excited for her first day after missing last year while on maternity leave.

“I had a gap year last year,” Diggins-Smith said. "Lot of learning and information. Try to pay attention as much as you can to retain. Good to have that moment when you're out here together and can get started.”

While the Liberty and Storm have built their teams mostly through free agency, the Aces and Indiana Fever have used the draft. Las Vegas had three straight No. 1 choices from 2017-19 when they took Plum, Wilson and Young.

Indiana has now had the last two top picks, taking the reigning Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston in 2023 and Caitlin Clark this year. The two Fever stars are already building their chemistry.

“I think Caitlin has a different eye for the game. You’re able to see how well she passes the ball and how well she shoots it,” Boston said. “You see her communicating, you see the way she can find you. I mean, her passes are tremendous. I’m like ‘OK, I’ll get a touch, just let me get down there,’ just because of how well she passes it.”


AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball

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